KASAMA Vol. 15 No. 2 / April-May-June 2001 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

a Philippines/Australia event

Run with Fr. Robert Reyes

The "Running Priest"

Father Robert Reyes has a passion for running. Throughout his native Philippines he is known as the "Running Priest". He runs not only to keep fit but also to bring attention to important moral issues such as protecting the environment, corruption in government, the death penalty and third world debt.

Father Robert has run the length and breadth of the Philippines covering thousands of kilometres in his attempt to encourage his fellow Filipinos to get involved in solving their many serious social problems.

A Filipino long distance runner named Cesar Guarin inspired him to run and taught him the rigors of long distance running. Father Robert, now 46 years old, started running seven years ago. Father Robert's sense of social justice began while he was studying to be a priest during the Marcos dictatorship. "We were trained not to be ordinary," he says, "but always to dream dreams and to aspire towards visions."

The organization he heads, GOMBURZA, was active in mustering groups to rally and call for Estrada's resignation. GOMBURZA was founded in 1987 as a cause-orientated organization of priests, nuns, brothers and laity who are committed to the struggle for justice. GOMBURZA is named after three Filipino priests: Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, who were executed in 1872 by the Spanish colonial government on trumped up charges of sedition and treason.

Father Robert is a diocesan priest from the Archdiocese of Manila. He is parish priest of the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus.

Fr. Robert is dubbed the "running priest" by the media in the Philippines because he "runs" to bring attention to issues that he is passionate about, such as the cancellation of the Debt of poor countries.

Columban Mission Institute and Caritas Australia have invited him to "run" here in Australia to help raise awareness about the many poor countries who are so burdened by debt that 7 million children under the age of five will have to die each year from preventable diseases just to pay the interest on their Debts. That is why we are calling this event "Run for Life-Drop the Debt".

The course of the "Run" in each city will be approximately 30-50 kms. The local people will be encouraged to run or walk with Father Reyes for as far as they can.

Fr. Robert inaugurated the run in Manila on June 12 and will continue to other cities around the Philippines. The Freedom from Debt Coalition is organizing the run in the Philippines and the Columban Mission Institute and Caritas Australia, with the support of many church and community groups and individuals, will organize it here in Australia. This is a joint Philippine/Australian Event, bringing together the rich and the poor, North and South, creditor and debtor.

An important element of the "Run for Life-Drop the Debt" event is that it is a joint effort of Philippine and Australian groups working for Debt Cancellation. International solidarity is an important goal of the worldwide Jubilee movement in achieving third world debt cancellation.

Many organizations, have a strong commitment to the eradication of poverty in our world and they see the issue of the unpayable Debts of the poorest countries as one of the great moral challenges of our time.

The Jubilee Coalition identifies 52 countries, most being in Africa, but also includes countries in Asia and Latin America. The Philippines owes Australia over $300 million. The Philippines spends up to 40% of its income on servicing Debt, which means that millions of Filipinos die from hunger-related diseases, lack of medicines or are reduced to grinding poverty. Fr. Robert will be running for the lives of his own people as well.

The problem of Debt was not solved during the Jubilee Year. The public plea of Pope John Paul and other famous people during the Jubilee Year fell on deaf ears. The leaders of the richest nations made promises which mostly have not been kept. However, the Jubilee 2000 Campaign has become a powerful movement for social and economic change in 65 countries, especially in the poorest ones. With 24 million signatures on its petition, Jubilee 2000 is the largest grassroots campaign in human history.

We believe that when more Australians know and understand the misery and death which Debt causes to so many people, then they will want to do something about it. We can get the Australian Government to cancel the debts of those countries who owe us. This is possible now! Let's maintain our just outrage by getting involved today.

A Coordinating Committee has been set up to organise the Brisbane "Run" and other events.

Fr. Reyes will run in 10 major cities over a period of 35 days from August 19 to September 23, 2001.

Brisbane ... August 19 - 22
Darwin ... August 23 - 25
Perth ... August 26 - 29
Adelaide ... August 30 - September 1
Hobart ... September 2 - 4
Melbourne ... September 5 - 9
Albury/Wodonga ... September 10 - 12
Canberra ... September 13 - 16
Woolongong ... September 17 - 19
Sydney ... September 20 - 23


Peter Arndt (CJPC) or Dee Hunt (CPCA/SPAN),
Justice Place, 84 Park Road,
Woolloongabba Qld 4102
Phone (07) 3891 5911 or Fax: (07) 3891 6944

Fr. Robert's Run in Brisbane is sponsored by:

Columban Mission Society
Caritas Australia
Catholic Mission
Australian Coalition for Economic Justice
Catholic Justice and Peace Commission
Solidarity Philippines Australia Network


Or contact Fr Brian Gore
Phone: (02) 9488 8844

Related Articles

The Running Priest and Third World Debt
Rattling the Chains of Debt
RP Debt Profile 1998